Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star: City moves to extend grace period for parking tickets

February 15th, 2014

Paul Clarke

Toronto Star

The city is mulling extending the grace period for parking at expired meters to 10 minutes.

After months of confusion surrounding a 10-minute grace period for parking tickets, something is finally being done — again, that is.

On Feb. 24, the city’s management committee will discuss an amendment that will give drivers a 10-minute grace period after their parking meter has expired.

While this might be news for some, for others this is a serious case of déjà-vu.

In July 2012, city council passed a similar motion that gave drivers a 10-minute grace period after their pay-and-display parking receipt expired.

So what gives?

Currently, Toronto police observe a five-minute grace period, creating confusion for drivers who receive a parking ticket for being between six and 10 minutes late. The amendment will actually make it a 10-minute grace period, which means police will not be able to ticket someone until 10 minutes after their pay-and-display ticket expires.

“The police have been very resistant to adjust their rule to city council’s rule, so therefore it has been incredibly confusing for the general public,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who has been spearheading the issue.

“Let’s say you are seven minutes late; the police will still give you a ticket, but if you go to the city administrative office they will forgive the ticket, in most cases.”

In November 2012, the city’s ombudsman Fiona Crean, urged council to better inform citizens about the city’s policies for challenging tickets, including better access on the city’s website.

“The issue is not about what we pass at city council, but having the police agree to resolve the issue with the city,” Matlow said.

“The reality is that they need to work in concert with council’s resolution,” he said adding city staff are getting closer to resolving the issue with the police once and for all.

But police are simply following the city bylaw as it’s written, said Toronto Police’s Parking Enforcement Unit Commander Kimberly Rossi.

“The existing bylaw does not provide a grace period at all,” she said. “At the expiry at the time on the pay-and-display receipt, an offence has been committed.”

For the sake of fairness and to account for any time discrepancies on cellphones and watches, parking enforcement officers do give drivers that five-minute grace period before issuing tickets, Rossi said.

She said a review by the chief of police found that five minutes was enough to account for the turnover between cars.

“When the city makes a motion, that does not necessarily change the law,” Rossi said. “If the city wanted to enact a 10-minute grace period, then they should incorporate that into the bylaw.”

Once that is done, she said police “would then align the practices to the bylaw.”

In 2013, the City of Toronto issued 2.63 million parking tickets, raising $78.44 million in revenue, according to the City of Toronto.

Approximately 572,000, or 21.7 per cent of these tickets, were issued for expired pay-and-display offences.

According to the report, if the motion is passed it will reduce the number of tickets issued by as much as 10 per cent, or about 60,000 tickets. This would reduce revenue by about $1.8 million annually.

In addition, the city will need to spend between $500,000 and $700,000 to change parking signs across the city.

The new motion comes less than a month after city council approved hefty parking fines of up to $150 for parking, stopping, or idling during rush hour. The new rules apply between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. The fines apply citywide.

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